I dream about the day where my mom doesn’t have to wake up at four in the morning to work under the scorching heat for hours on end. I come from a farmworking family and began working in the fields at the age of twelve in Idaho. My first memory is walking into an orchard of cherry trees. Growing up, I remember telling myself that, “I don’t want to work here my whole life. And I don’t want my parents too, either.” My family is the reason why I decided to be five and a half hours away to pursue my postsecondary education. As I look back after finishing my first year in college, I am more committed to continuing to pursue my goal of obtaining my bachelor’s degree for my family.
This in part to being part of the College Assistance Migrant Program (CAMP). That is where I found my home away from home. I soon began to call the rest of my peers, CAMP brothers and CAMP sisters. CAMP is where I go with any questions about college.
Through CAMP, I participated in Farmworker Awareness Week. The fourth week of March is Farmworker Awareness Week on college campuses. This week is used to bring awareness to issues that farmworkers face like exploitation and harassment. This is a week I hold dear because I am passionate about farmworker justice. This week reminded me of the days I worked de-tasseling corn. Fortunately, my mom, my sister and I did not faced harassment in the fields. On our campus, we had the Bandana Project where we wrote facts about women in the fields. We displayed these at Voces Del Campo (Voices from the Fields), an event where we shared our own farmworking story. I had the privilege to read an anonymous story and heard many of my CAMP siblings share their accounts. This event made me realize the importance of sharing one’s own stories to bring awareness to certain issues. I found myself being grateful for having peers that share a similar background like mine, which is coming from a low-income farmworking family.
Volunteering for several events that week made me think about my career goals. Once I get certified to be a teacher, I want to stay in Idaho and teach in a community with a high Hispanic population. I want to be able to educate students about the issues facing our communities and share resources to assist them.
The University of Idaho’s CAMP program has been the place where I have learned about myself. Thankfully, I have found my support system, made friends, and have peers that share similar backgrounds. I have an amazing family that has been supportive since day one, and they are the reason I will continue to reach for my goals. Hopefully one day, I will be able to give my parents at least twice as much for what they have given and done for me and achieve my dream of helping my family no longer work in the fields.
Julia Santiago is a sophomore at the University of Idaho and a summer 2019 intern at the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics.
The content of these posts reflects the opinions of individuals who wrote it and is not an endorsement or statement from the U.S. Department of Education.